Misogyny, What?

Edited to add : If you find parts, or all of this post impossible/difficult to understand, do let me know – with frank pointers to what, and why.

Everyday feminism (today) revolves around debunking misogynistic behavior, attitudes and subtext. Laws might be fighting patriarchy, but the feisty feminist on the street, in the office, at home, on the park bench, is definitely fighting misogyny – primarily.

And, Misogyny = “hatred or dislike of women or girls”?

Umm.. I have a problem right there.

Have you tried introducing anybody, especially a man, to feminism via misogyny?

The typical response would be “Oh nooo! I lovvvve women! [sheepish grin]”. And an honest response, that would be. Today, the average decent man does love and cherish the women in his life. So does the average decent woman. As does the average decent human being. And yet, the average decent human being has misogyny built-in.

Rather than ‘educating’ people and ‘opening’ their eyes to the cruel face and ways of misogyny, let us give some thought to this “misogyny”, shall we?

For me, “hatred towards women” isn’t elegant enough an explanation for all the sub-problems of the patriarchy-misogyny spider-web.

It doesn’t explain why ‘masculine’ women aren’t welcomed as ‘better than average woman’, why ‘feminine’ men are ridiculed despite being men –  why anybody outside the heteronormative* order and the gender binary* is either in the closet or an outcast.

Yes, yes.. feminist theory does explain all that in its own characteristic convoluted way. The misogynists don’t like ‘masculine’ women because they think they are imposters. They don’t like ‘feminine’ men because they let ‘real’ men down. And they hate every other gender/sexual ‘freak’ because? Err.. I don’t know! Definitely something  convoluted that comes back to hating women.

Big  words, thoroughly tangled up thought arcs – sound too complicated, right? Exactly my feelings!

Now consider this – same concept, minus specificity to women : “hatred of the feminine and hence, of  misplaced, missing, and flaunted femininity”.

With that..

Why is the feminine demure woman trod upon, as a tradition? Hatred of the feminine.

Why is alleging that a man plays “like a girl” is an insult? Hatred of misplaced femininity.

Why is the masculine woman either a witch or a bitch? Hatred of missing femininity.

Why  is the effeminate man weak and the one bringing down the standards of manhood? Misplaced femininity again.

Why is the sexy woman a slut? Hatred of flaunted femininity.

Why is the nerdy woman better than the dumb blonde when it comes to work? The ‘dumb blonde’s’ femininity.

Why is the nerdy women worse than the dumb blonde when it comes to attraction? The ‘nerdy’ woman’s missing femininity.

Men no cry? Crying is feminine.

Women no strong opinions? Opinions no feminine.

Tom-boys and Drag-queens? Ha ha.. confused freaks! What are they?

The femininity based definition explains why cisgender* trumps transgender and transgender isn’t “real”. Even homophobia to an extent – because feminine should attract masculine and vice versa, and any other combination of attraction messes up with the femininity of the female and the masculinity of the male.

In short, when behavior – gender and/or sexual – is ‘unnatural’, it isn’t clear whether the female is appropriately feminine and the male respectfully masculine. We don’t like confusion now, do we?

Funnily, it also explains why a good number of feminists are so uncomfortable with femininity and decry all feminine behavior and attire as anti-feminist-cause. Yes, they are misogynists themselves – according to my definition, at least! I can’t but wonder if all those feminists who embrace and advocate androgyny vehemently are really comfortable with the female body and sexuality! While androgyny can be a choice, it can not be the norm – that would simply be a new edition of misogyny.

Now, please do resist from pouncing on me that all of feminine behavior and attire is ‘learnt’, ‘to please’, ‘to attract – sexually’, ‘to objectify’ and ‘to subjugate’. I don’t buy the argument that feminine behavior is social and ‘learnt’ and ‘taught’.

a) It could not have been ‘discovered’ by some brilliant oppressor and thrust upon women – not without it having existed naturally in some measure in human behavior.

b) The argument definitely doesn’t explain the existence of people outside the gender binary – if femininity isn’t real, cross-dressers are perverts – which is just as discriminatory as “women are inherently weaker” and “black/dalit people are just not evolved enough to be thinkers”.

Do I mean to say that pink is ‘genetically’ feminine and blue ‘genetically’ masculine? Haha.. No – I know the difference between marketing strategy and innate behavior. Most of the behavior considered feminine today IS probably just social conditioning and somebody setting trends (history would tell you that men too wore high heels, and kings too wore jewellery).

Let us just say that feminine behavior is the stuff that is innately feminine along with the urge to adhere to the female gender-role stuff that comes from social conditioning.

As with any behavioral trait, femininity is merely a spectrum. And where one is placed or places oneself on that spectrum is nobody’s business. Yes, not even a ‘well-meaning’ feminist’s business!

Disassociating women from ‘misogyny’ automatically disassociates ‘femininity’ from women. Shifts focus to the concept from the (traditional) representative.

So, rather than focusing on women’s issues and the hatred for women, isn’t it time that feminism evolved and focused on femininity and everybody struggling against gender stereotypes and sexual norms?

Yes, yes.. I do realize that I sound too vague with that question – explanatory post coming up.

P.S. : This post is an idea – a spark for the brainstorming table. I’m sure this conjecture has flaws, even serious ones. Questions and debates are very much welcome. However, if I detect patronizing tones, be ready to be pounced upon viciously. I’m in the mood to bite and tear apart.

* I promise : With that, I am done indulging my urge to show off all the scary academic words that I have learnt from my nerdy reading of feminist theory. Well.. not entirely done.. just one more post for this? Please, please?

Edited to add : If you find parts, or all of this post impossible/difficult to understand, do let me know – with frank pointers to what, and why.


One thought on “Misogyny, What?

  1. I think the context is important here. I’m comfortable using the terms misogyni and patriarchy to describe a large fraction of the problem in countries where equal rights have a very long way to go, say Yemen, Iran, Tunisia. Of course the people there also do not really “hate” women, but atleast the culture is consistently enforcing the notion that women are LESS than men.

    I struggle, on the other hand when feminists use the same terms and claim that these are the main problems for equal rights here in Scandinavia. Sure, there’s plenty of examples here too of areas where women on the average do worse than men — but we’ve also got many examples of the opposite. Overall I’d say the table is still slanted in the favor of men, but the tilt is slight, and there’s big and important exceptions.

    Here, I feel it’s more relevant to do what you do: point out that restrictive normative gender-roles are limiting to all people, regardless of gender. These arbitrary limits hurt women and men alike. They *especially* hurt those that for one reason or another do not wish to conform. Women with zero interest in makeup. Men who thinks cars are pretty boring. Women who are (or would like to be) sexually assertive. Men who aren’t. Lesbians. Gays. Transgenders and crossdressers. In short, anyone who happen to be born with one gender, but wants to do something the “norm” sees as belonging to the other gender.

    I don’t feel that “misogyni” describes this problem well at all. Nor does “patriarchy”.

    I think the question to which degree femininity (or masculinity) is innate or social is a side-track. What does it matter ? If you want to do something because you’ve consciously choosen to do it, or because culture has conditioned you to desire it, does that make your wish any less legitimate than if it was genetically pre-programmed ? Would gays deserve less respect if being gay was a free and open choice available to all of us ?

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